Issue #6- Regret
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Issue #6: Regret

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Welcome back to Peak Performance, our newsletter highlighting the latest science in performance and personal growth.
Why You’ll Regret the Risks You Didn’t Take More Than the Ones You Did
In the last edition of this newsletter, we highlighted the role of personal narratives in developing resilience.  It turns out that the stories we tell ourselves also play a large role in how we experience the emotion of regret. In particular, it is easier to live with the things we tried that went wrong than the things we never tried in the first place.
According to the world-renowned psychologist Dan Gilbert, this is because when we take a risk, even if it doesn’t pan out, we can still tell ourselves a productive story about it.  For example:
  • "My book flopped but I learned a lot in the process of writing it."
  • "Although we called off our engagement, I now know more about what I want in spouse."
  • "I may not have made it as a professional triathlete, but man did I learn how to grind."
On the contrary, when we don’t take a risk, there is no story to tell and we are left with a void, wondering what could have been.  That void – and the second-guessing and questioning that accompanies it – almost always causes more pain than trying and failing.
Now this isn’t an excuse to take foolish risks or to engage in reckless behavior.  But if you’ve thoroughly thought something through and assessed the pros and cons to be about even, science says “going for it” will yield greater happiness and fulfillment in the long haul.  So write your book, start your business, try life as a professional athlete, and yes, perhaps even get that tattoo you’ve been thinking about for the last few months.
Try This
  • Prior to any big decision, do your best to dispassionately analyze the pros and cons.
  • If the score is about even and you find yourself on the edge, go for it!
  • If things work out – great! If they don’t, per our last newsletter on resilience and Dan Gilbert’s research, learn from the mishap and frame it constructively in your forever unfolding life’s story.
Learn More
“Indeed, in the long run, people of every age and in every walk of life seem to regret "not" having done things much more than they regret things they "did," which is why the most popular regrets include not going to college, not grasping profitable business opportunities, and not spending enough time with family and friends.”  – Daniel Gilbert
That’s it for this edition of Peak Performance.  We hope you learned something new.  Don’t hesitate to send us your questions or comments or to reach out on Twitter @SteveMagness and @Bstulberg.
Finally, if you find this newsletter interesting and useful, please share with your friends and colleagues.
Brad and Steve

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